Man’s Body – A Set Of Steak Knives LP

Man’s Body
A Set of Steak Knives LP
(Nocturnal Sol Records)
It’s funny how names and images have the power to be completely irrelevant, when it comes to music. Really think about it, reader; on first sight, a name like Man’s Body feels like it might be a little prog-gy or even a little metallic in intention, somehow. In the same way, “A Set of Steak Knives” feels like it may be sharp or dangerous or, worse, the token addition that one might expect when they’ve purchased some domestic item – like a set of dinner plates – which has been included as an afterthought. Happily, none of those sorts of things proves to be accurate as one listens to this album.

Regardless of what one might be expecting before the record first starts, listeners will be absolutely floored when stylus catches groove and “Contact Sigh” opens the A-side of A Set of Steak Knives. There, as synths and a clean-toned rhythm guitar part open the song, ghosts of The Killers begin to materialize and those listening will begin to feel their pulses pick up speed a little in anticipation as singer Greg Franco whispers about feeling alive in spite of heartache. The images and presence come into better focus as Fredo Ortiz’ drums and Dante Pascuzzo’s guitars converge around the vocals and, suddenly, Man’s Body emerges brilliantly; all of a sudden, the instruments come together behind Franco, his voice spontaneously becomes more muscular than breathless and the song skirts brilliance as it shines.

That brilliance endures through the less energetic but beautifully composed “40 oz. Kid” and finds a way to simmer darkly through “The Natural Host” before re-establishing stronger energy in the band’s delivery in the really Pixies-esque “Handler” and then finding a way to win those seemingly opposed energies for “Hit The Bricks” (which manages to intermingle a fantastic piano performance with a chugging rhythm) before finally glaring with a sort of menace that the band didn’t express elsewhere on the album’s A-side in “Bed Of Nails.” There, while the song begins in a manner which fits with the underlying aesthetic and tone that those who have followed the band from the top of the A-side to its bottom will easily understand, when bassist Mar Doten locks into gear (at the ten second mark), listeners may actually feel their pupils dilate with pleasure as everything just seems to come together in a charmed way, and the effect is a chime, rather than a thud. After that, the strings whine perfectly and seem to bounce off of Ortiz’ drums so hard that, when Franco asks, “Who got the number of that truck,” the question feels apt – but, while he’s wondering how it could get worse, listeners will be wondering how it could possibly get any better. Maybe because the band realizes they’re onto something, Man’s Body just keeps the play feeling a little loose and off-the-cuff as still drums filter in modestly on occasion and Franco continues to sound more than a little jacked up on something as he rants his way along.

While the darkness which closes both the waning moments of “Bed Of Nails” and the A-side of A Set of Steak Knives does not appear refreshed as “Last Day On Earth” opens the album’s B-side, Man’s Body does find ways to keep listener off-balance and paying close attention. “Blue Ruin” finds a way to sound a little like the Meat Puppets in spite of the fact that the vocals sound like an only half-sober and all-spoken (read: Franco does not develop a vocal melody), while “Classically Mine” attempts to hijack an Elton John-sounding piano ballad (yes, really!) and “Shower And A Cigarette” actually finds a rhythm which could play pretty well on a dance floor before “I Left The Set Of My Own TV Show” strikes out in a completely different and unexpected direction again as it closes out the album. In that case, the shadows which colored most of the A-side of A Set of Steak Knives re-appear with even sharper edges as Doten’s bass pulls out a line which sparkles in its clarity and propels the song along in much the same way Eric Avery’s parts did for Jane’s Addiction. The tone on the first twenty seconds of “I Left The Set…” registers as absolutely elating and Franco follows that vibe in his melodic delivery if not his lyrics (which discuss shipwrecks and endless heartache) into the chorus which plays like a perfect British new wave relic and contrasts the rest of the B-side by being low key and forcing listeners to come to it rather than offering some kind of explosive conclusion.

…And when “I Left The Set of My Own TV Show” does fade out and stylus does lift from record, no one who has run front-to-back with A Set of Steak Knives will have any questions about the album’s quality. It does need to be said that because the album is of such high quality and is also the band’s debut album makes it seem even more impressive, and really leaves listeners wondering what Man’s Body may have in them for a follow-up. Looking forward that way feels as though it’s actually looking away from this album though – and A Set of Steak Knives deserves attention. Go buy this album and inhabit it – it’s easy to do and you’ll be glad you did, reader. [Bill Adams]


A Set Of Steak Knives is out now on NocturnalSol Records. Buy is here – directly from NocturnalSol.

Bill Adams is Editor-in-Chief of Ground Control Mag.